November 11, 2016

A Tale of Two Eagles

Two American eagle quilts, in honor of Veterans Day.

Several years ago, I was honored to be asked to conserve a spectacular eagle quilt.  It is embroidered prominently with the date and location - 1853 and Phelps, at town in upstate New York.  Beyond that, it is totally gorgeous, and in pretty good condition.

I was asked to do the work on this quilt by Mark Wilcox of Summer Antiques in Lake Placid, NY.

He auctioned the quilt at Sotheby's.  The auction catalog has a full description and larger photo.  My blog has photos of the conservation work I did on the quilt.  It is still one of the most important and fun adventures I've ever had in the quilt repair biz.

Well, then a week or so ago, I came across an auction listing at Freeman's for an incredibly similar quilt!  The auction will take place next week.
Photo: Freeman's
The date on this one is 1845.  The descriptive materials say that the name of the quiltmaker is known for this quilt, as it has been handed down in the family.  She was married in 1811, and died in New York state.  She could quite reasonably have been living somewhere in New York at the end of her life when the quilt was made.

I’m wondering whether or not the two quilts were made by the same person.  The borders and the halo over the eagle’s head are very different stylistically.  The designs on the 1845 quilt are quite angular by comparison, and more formal and symmetrical.  I wonder if this was a design that appeared on some other item that quiltmakers were drawn to copy and interpret on their quilts.  I poked around a bit, but haven't found anything yet.

If it was the same person, she was certainly having loads of fun coming up with different ideas!

My challenge to you all - look for a design source for this grand old bird.

Another amazing coincidence is that there is one and only one previous exhibit on the quilt's "resumé", and that was right here in my home town!  And no, I didn't know about it.  Wish I had!


  1. There is definitely a "story" here, Ann - hope some quilt historian will take up the cause!